Wednesday, May 13, 2015

FGS Announces New FORUM Editors

The Federation of Genealogical Societies is pleased to announce that Julie Tarr is the new Managing Editor and Jennifer Alford is the new Associate Editor of the FGS FORUMFORUM is the FGS quarterly interactive electronic magazine providing current information essential to the informed genealogist.

D. Joshua Taylor, President of the Federation of Genealogical Societies said, "FORUM has such a rich legacy within the family history community, and we are delighted to welcome Julie and Jennifer as its new leadership team. As an enhanced digital publication, FORUM will continue to serve as an important voice and resource for genealogists throughout the globe."

Julie Tarr has been writing and editing professionally for over 15 years. In 2011, she began providing professional genealogical services, which include writing, editing, and researching. In addition to providing these services to individuals, much of her time is dedicated to educating others through her writing. Projects include the publication of four Legacy QuickGuides, course development for the National Institute of Genealogical Studies, and several articles for various genealogical publications. Julie also maintains a genealogy blog, which was implemented in 2008. She is also managing editor for the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly and Pegasus: Journal of the Dallas Genealogical Society.

Commenting on her new role, Julie Tarr said, "In the world of genealogy, education is something I truly believe in and I am always looking for opportunities to support that passion. FORUM is certainly an educational tool that provides a wide range of articles on topics that keep societies and genealogists alike informed and knowledgeable, essentially advancing the genealogy community. I am thrilled to be a part of the FORUM team and look forward to keeping the educational legacy alive by providing content that keeps readers engaged and excited about genealogy."

Jennifer Alford, PE, PTOE is a Traffic Engineer by day and a genealogy professional and lecturer by night. Her strong organizational skills and use of logic and methodology as an engineer are highly beneficial to genealogy research. Her research specialties include Jewish resources and the Midwest. Her business, Jenealogy, creates engaging family history treasures to enhance the bond between generations. Her artistic pursuits are combined to develop beautiful personalized artwork for her clients. As a partner with The In-Depth Genealogist she has taken the role of Publisher of The In-Depth Genealogist’s magazine, Going In-Depth, and several books written by their contributing writers. 

"I am honored to be selected as Associate Editor for FORUM and I look forward to working with the FGS board, Linda McCauley, and Julie Cahill Tarr," says Jennifer Alford. As a team, we hope to bring an exciting new vision for the magazine and further develop it into an educational and interactive resource for societies and individuals."

Julie and Jennifer can be reached at

Monday, May 11, 2015

FGSCruise2015: Last Call…All Aboard!

The FGS Alaskan Cruise cabin block is only guaranteed available through May 15. If you want to sail on a floating genealogy conference with four of the best national speakers in the industry, don’t delay in booking your cabin now.

The cruise sets sail on August 28, departing from Seattle.  After a full day of cruising, the ship will reach the Alaska Inside Passage on August 30 for a morning of sightseeing aboard the ship. In the afternoon the ship will be in port at Juneau for over 8 hours, and on August 31, the old gold-rush town of Skagway can be explored.  On September 1 the ship will pass through the picturesque Tracy Arm Fjord and Sawyer Glacier.  After a full day at sea, the ship will arrive in Victoria, British Columbia on September 3 for a day of on-shore activities, before returning to Seattle on September 4.

Butchart gardens

The genealogy conference will take place during times when the ship is at sea.  Over 20 educational presentations will be given by featured speakers Elizabeth Shown Mills, David Rencher, Judy Russell and Josh Taylor.  On-board social activities, exclusive group excursions, and private dinner seating will make this a personal experience with plenty of time to get to know the speakers and fellow cruise mates.

This cruise will be an experience that you’ll never forget!  Check off Alaska from your bucket list while enhancing your genealogical knowledge in the process.

To book your cabin, visit the FGS Cruise Conference web page for all the details, or contact Susan Smith of Cruises Inc. at 866-713-9662 or

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mobilegeddon and Your Society Website

Google has been changing their search algorithm again. As of April 21st, Google rolled out new Search Engine Rankings based on whether a website is mobile friendly. Maybe you have received an email warning your society website is not mobile ready. Maybe you have seen one of several articles proclaiming search-ranking DOOM. But a few weeks into the new rules have you even noticed a difference? Read on to see what Mobilegeddon really means for the typical society website.

What it is…and is not

Google has changed its mobile search algorithm to rank mobile friendly sites higher in search returns. This does not affect your search rankings from the desktop browsers most of us use while doing genealogical research. As a consumer, this a great step forward towards a faster, easier search. Let me paint a picture for you:

I’m out at the park walking my dog. He chases a skunk into the woods. Out he comes both stinking to high heaven and covered in mud. I turn to my trusty phone to Google a groomer near me.

In this instance, having Google prioritize sites of local groomers with mobile friendly websites I can actually read and use from my phone would be a great help. But how many scenarios might you imagine where your society website would be accessed in the same way? For most society websites, the answer to that question will be none.

The niche advantage

Genealogical societies are unlikely to find their mobile search engine rankings significantly impacted by the change even if their website is not mobile ready. Our societies tend to be uniquely named. We have few, if any competing websites for the typical search terms that lead users to us. Unless you have the misfortune of a name such as “Oakville Genealogy,” Mobilegeddon will not be a major concern. But that does not mean societies are off the hook.

The user experience

Knowing Mobilegeddon is unlikely to impact your society’s mobile search ranking is not a reason to ignore mobile entirely. Our existing society members are adopting mobile-based devices. The new, younger members societies need to attract to stay viable expect to access websites designed to work on their latest gadgets. The smart phone is not the only mobile device to worry about. Any App-based system such as Tablets and E-Readers count as mobile devices. Is your website easy to use from these devices?

Most society websites will still be largely accessible from mobile devices according to Thomas Ryder of EasyNetSites, a provider of society websites used by many FGS members. While databases often prove difficult to work in on the smallest screens, they are also the items least likely to be accessed that way. However, one area of site design can cause user difficulty: the spacing between navigation items typically found in the side bar of a website. If the spacing is very close, it will be more difficult for mobile users to correctly touch the navigation link they want from smaller screens.

From small adjustment to grand plans

The quickest way to determine how user friendly your website is on mobile devices is to test it out. Engage your society members to explore your existing website on a variety of devices to see how it performs. Determine what changes might be needed to make your existing site function better in a mobile environment. If you’ve been tracking your website’s performance with Google Analytics, you will be able to hone in on the sections of your site accessed by mobile devices in order to focus any changes there first. It may take but a few simple tweaks to make your existing site more robust for mobile users.

However, many societies are in dire need of a website overhaul. Too many have failed to update their site design from the earliest days of site building techniques and technologies. If your society is contemplating a fresh start to your web presence, building for the mobile future should not be overlooked. Many mobile ready site builders are available from Weebly to Wordpress. However site builders like EasyNetSites can be optimized to give the best possible view from a mobile device even though they do not offer mobile site building directly. It just takes a little forethought and planning.

Into the future

Mobile is not going away. In fact, mobile is set to expand even farther with the push towards wear-ables such as the forthcoming Apple Watch. While we may not expect to be doing much genealogical research from our wrists, the days of the desktop as our primary working computer are beginning to fade. Tablets, e-readers and smart phones allow us to work on our genealogical projects at any time, from anywhere. Societies will need to stay abreast of the latest changes in website design technology, search trends and computing tools to give their users the best possible experience with their face on the web.
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